"We hope you are not going to be discussing dead bodies on this fine, bright summer's day JF?" I hear you all mutter, barely audibly, but almost in unison: "Relax" I say, with a well-practiced calming reassurance...
What I am going to be discussing is what should happen every time you lose a bid/potential order/piece of significant business and, even more importantly, what should happen when you win a bid/potential order, etc.
So let's begin by considering what happens when you lose - or should I say, you fail to win. The most common "excuse" I hear is that it was down to price. When there is a very flat playing field where solutions and costings are identical, and there has been no opportunity to prove incremental value, this is indeed the case. The only other differentiators in these circumstances are the quality of your selling skills and your ability to think "out of the box".
But in most scenarios, when I dig below the surface, I discover a whole host of far more complex - although obvious - reasons.
These can include:
Failure to cover all the bases within the DMU (Decision Making Unit) and simply concentrating on one or two perceived strong allies - only to be outwitted by a competitor who has been far more active!
Or even being hood- winked into believing that the main contact has far more power and influence, simply because that was suggested from their business card. That's a bit like dealing with the Vice-President of the United States - the title sounds impressive, but not too much power or influence.
But actually, by far the most common failing is not being rigorous enough at the front-end. What I mean is that insufficient time has been invested into asking all of the right questions to the right people, to fully understand the requirement and, consequently, making some assumptions - often wrong ones. From that point on, everything that is proposed is a bit "suck it and see" and relies on hope and luck. That means the odds for winning are 50% at best from the beginning.
A final word on post-mortems after a loss - Be brutally honest! OK, that was three words, but you get my drift. Don't allow anything, or anyone, to escape microscopic scrutiny. This is not a finger pointing exercise, but it is a fantastic opportunity to roll back the carpet and expose the cracks. Your ultimate objective is to ensure (try to) that you don't make the same mistakes again, and hence increase your odds of winning the next great opportunity that arrives.
But please do not think for one minute that post-mortems are just for understanding losses. I do so hate the word "failure"... They are just as important after you have won, whilst the scent of victory is still fresh in your nostrils.
Ensuring that you have a total understanding of what you did right is absolutely vital if you want to replicate that success and repeat that superior performance.
Do remember that everything - every aspect of the sales/buying cycle - can always be improved. Perfection is an imaginary target for us all. It doesn't really exist - unless you are naive enough to believe it does.